Grantmaking in the time of COVID-19


The Foundation reflects on its own practices.
By Megan Tate
Director of Community Grants

The last 18+ months have been incredibly disruptive in our community, and around the world. The emergence of COVID-19 and the subsequent shelter at home orders have affected all of us.

During this same time there have been increased calls to action for racial and social justice and truth and reconciliation. We have seen increased acts of racism and violence towards the Asian community, and a greater urgency to the Black Lives Matter movement. Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPOC) have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – both the economic impacts and the virus itself. And this past spring it was confirmed what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had told us to be true – that there are unmarked graves of Indigenous children on the grounds of former residential schools.

The leaders, staff and volunteers of community organizations have gone above and beyond during the pandemic. They quickly pivoted their programming so they could continue to serve community. For example, family resource centres started providing hampers of food and essential items; youth-serving agencies dropped off activity kits when in-person programming wasn’t possible; and seniors centres provided take-home meals and found ways to connect safely.

Once vaccines became available, community organizations took a leadership role in ensuring accessible shots for all – hosting vaccine clinics in neighbourhoods, as well as making sure information is available in multiple languages and provided by trusted community members in a culturally appropriate way.

And community organizations are the ones caring for residential school survivors who were re-traumatized by the news of unmarked graves, and others impacted by racial and social injustice.

During this time The Foundation’s grantmaking adapted as circumstances constantly evolved. Many of the things we were already practicing continued, but in a more in-depth way – listening to community organizations to understand their needs (and, sometimes, just to lend a sympathetic ear); being flexible with our funding (for projects that had already been funded, and new requests); and applying an equity lens to our work.

Applying an equity lens includes acknowledging that there are systemic barriers faced by Indigenous communities, Black communities, People of Colour, the 2SLGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities, and that as a result of these barriers organizations led by and serving these communities are often under-represented when it comes to the allocation of philanthropic dollars. Our role as a grantmaker is to work to remove barriers and ensure we practice equity in our decision-making.

We also continued to build on the model of trust-based philanthropy, which is centred on relationships of mutual trust between funders and grantee partners. Some of the features of trust-based philanthropy include streamlining the application and reporting information required; having foundation staff “do the homework” of getting to know organizations; and providing unrestricted funding. This includes researching which organizations are ensuring people’s immediate needs are being met, and proactively providing funding to these charities. The breadth and the depth of our relationships with community organizations allowed us to do this work.

It also meant that when we launched the Stabilization Grants program to support all charitable organizations that have been financially impacted by the pandemic, we designed a simplified application and reporting process (while ensuring that we still completed our due diligence), and funding could be used however it was most needed.

We are grateful to those who have made this work possible – the generations of donors who created Community Funds, allowing us to respond to community quickly wherever support was needed most; those who gave to the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, allowing us to increase our emergency support, and donor advisors who engaged in our Responsive Grant program and provided grants directly from their funds.

Supporting the community during COVID-19 – all thanks to you!

The Winnipeg Foundation’s response to addressing COVID-19 has been to quickly and proactively issue grants to charities, while at the same time exercising due diligence. This has including distributing Emergency Response Grants and Stabilization Grants, the most recent of which were announced in June 2021.

To learn about some of the COVID-19 grants issued, please read the Promising Projects.

Support those who support others

During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Foundation has been focused on getting funds to charities as quickly as possible. Thank you to all the generous people who have supported this important work,  through new gifts or gifts made to community funds in years previous.

BeCAUSE of you…

TOTALING $17,463,286

were issued between March 2020 and June 2021.

Ways you can help

Make a new gift

The Foundation set up the COVID-19 Community Response Fund in mid-March 2020 to quickly direct funds to those organizations that need it most. If you would like to join us in this vital initiative by making a gift, visit

Redirect funds to charities

If you are a fundholder, you can direct your Available to Spend grant dollars to charities that need it most. During this challenging time, charities are focused on providing front-line care and service rather than administration.

Without adding to their workload, we can help you support organizations close to your heart. The Winnipeg Foundation is committed to making grant payments and working with fundholders to meet their giving needs.

To learn more, please contact our Donor Engagement team by email.

This story is featured in the Fall 2021 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

How would you like to start?

Give Now Start Your Own Fund Contact Us